In a recent CBC News story, a railway conductor lost her job following a derailment. She claimed she was not adequately trained. Here is a comment from the Railway Association representative:
“In your job, you are qualified and do your job, but you feel you should know more. It doesn’t mean you are not qualified for your job. You might have a personal perception, that you would need additional training, but the minimum standards for your position are determined by the railways.”
If you are interested in organizational performance issues, here are a few points to ponder. This is conjecture, based only on this article, but it highlights significant issues for training professionals.
- Would more and better training have helped this conductor?
- Would a longer on-job-training period have better prepared the conductor?
- What if she had instant access to some experienced conductors at a support centre?
- Would job aids have helped, such as emergency checklists used by pilots?
- Would a non-training solution be better?
- More staff on the train
- Better identification of cargo
- Safer trains
- Safer tracks
- New regulations
Many employees receive mandated training. Compliance training is a standard response by industry regulators when dealing with human performance issues. Usually an industry association, with training specialists, develops the guidelines. The owners of compliance standards, whether authorities like government and regulatory bodies, professional bodies, or internal legal counsel, are stuck in a mindset that in order to get good workplace performance you must have training. It is also an acceptable method of keeping executive officers out of prison if something goes wrong. If something REALLY goes wrong, the fact that someone had been through a training program means the organization is off the hook.
This mindset permeates the training industry. Too many people in the training department make the leap from a performance issue (lack of skills, abilities, knowledge; lack of access to appropriate data and resources; etc) directly to ‘training as the only solution’. This is a wrong approach and is the most costly. Management plays into this, with statements like “We have a training problem” while no one challenges that statement. There is no such thing as a training problem.
Here are some ‘training problems’ that are not solved through training:
- Poor communications
- Unclear expectations (such as policies & guidelines)
- Inadequate resources
- Unclear performance measures
- Rewards and consequences are not directly linked to the desired performance
These barriers can be addressed without training. Only when there is a genuine lack of skills and knowledge, is training required. A trained worker, without the right resources and with unclear expectations, will still not perform up to the desired standard. Allison Rossett states that “… performance support is a repository for information, processes, and perspectives that inform and guide planning and action.” There are many cases where performance support is needed to help workers, even if they are trained.
- When performance is infrequent
- When the situation is complex
- When the consequence of errors is intolerable
- When performance depends on a large body of information
- When performance is dependent on knowledge or information that changes frequently
- When performance can be improved through self-assessment
- When there is a high turnover rate
- When there is little time or money for training
Even trained workers need an effective performance support system.